Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Writing Lessons I learned from the Books I hated

I have kept this blog up since May of 2010, a suggestion to do something. Since that fateful time, I have come across some books I couldn't stand. Most people have a knee-jerk reaction of "how can this piece of garbage be published?" "Were editors asleep on their jobs?" While those are some of my knee-jerk reactions, especially pertaining to Twilight and Fifty Shades, I think that lessons towards writing and self can be also gleaned from the books you will happily give to your worst enemy as a birthday gift. I will mention something positive about the books too, and if they're popular their impact on society. I will go over some of the zero star books, as well as some authors I just CANNOT stand. Just so you know, there will be a piece titled "Lessons I learned from the Books I loved". Let's begin.

Fifty Shades Trilogy by E.L James 

Positive impact: The only positive thing it has done is perhaps popularize the BDSM issue, as well as give some women a voice in their desires and sexuality.

Negative impact: It glamorizes abuse, and its bad enough that el james denies that the books depict abuse. Also as well, this monstrosity is a slap in the face for the writers and authors who have been honing their craft since they discovered how much writing means to them.

Lessons I learned from Fifty Shades:  Don't just research geography of a chosen nation but also research the mannerisms and habits of people that inhabit it. Also, thesaurus can become your worst enemy, and sometimes if you use too many big words you sound like an idiot.

Ecstasy Series by Janelle Taylor

Positive impact: They were published in 1980s, and perhaps they helped popularize Native American male/American female pairing. Also they might have acted as sort of blueprints for the future and better written romance novels.

Negative impact: the Native American culture is portrayed horribly in these books, and there is lots of misinformation about history when it comes to the tiniest details. In similar vein they tend to glamorize abuse just as Fifty Shades trilogy, of having a heroine falling in love and staying with someone who is abusive towards her.

Lessons I learned from Ecstasy Series: Research, research and research. Make the hero more likable instead of so invulnerable, and if possible give explanations as early as possible  for any questionable behavior the hero will exhibit.

Books by Jane Austen (yes, you read that right)

Positive impact: They were written by a woman and all are about finding a happily ever after no matter the situation or circumstance. They are the most popular, and they put Regency Era on top of the map, where that particular era dominates historical romance section.

Negative impact: I personally feel alienated and just can't like Jane Austen. For those that want to read something besides Regency romance its very difficult to find it. I read almost all her books twice and I simply cannot understand the popularity or why they're so popular. She depicts an upper class that many people have only dreamed of living, and where other aspects get ignored.

Lessons I learned from Jane Austen's books: Somehow make your books be timeless and understandable to people. What I mean is give focus to courtship as well as sensations that characters experience.

Bird and Fish Duology by Adrienne Leslie

Positive Impact: For one thing the book gave more voice to Korean culture and dramas, as well as a white female/Korean male pairing, which are good things.

Negative impact: The characters lacked chemistry, there aren't any transitions between settings, and for those that aren't familiar with Korean culture, some words will be strange and will be given no meaning. I also have never visited New York, thus I felt very alienated when reading about New York.

Lessons I learned from Bird and Fish duology: Show chemistry between the characters and use transitions between different times so the readers won't get confused. Also, assume that you come upon a reader who isn't familiar with what you're familiar with, or who hasn't visited New York. What I mean is don't focus a lot on setting. I usually try to make setting as vague as possible.

Books by Danielle Steel

Positive Impact: She is writing novels of women overcoming adversity, finding love again and so forth, as well as references that some can understand.

Negative impact: Lack of colored male heroes, too much focus on wealth and beauty. (It sometimes seems that women succeed simply because they're beautiful!) and way too much repetition. Middle schoolers will love these books, while I doubt many sane older women can like them.

Lessons I learned from books by Danielle Steel: Make sure characters have different backgrounds if possible, don't focus on physical beauty, and be careful of repeating self.

Books by Charles Dickens (yes, that's right)

Positive Impact: He has given a lot of attention for the people that fall below the cracks of society such as thieves and orphans, and many people love his books, not sure why. I tried to read two of them, but boy they were boring.

Negative impact: Implausible plots for one, no editor, and unfortunately he is not favorable towards, well revolutionaries. Characters are also impossible and boring.

Lessons I learned: Have an editor, and make sure that your own writing can be understood by others. Care about quality instead of quantity.

Books by Amy Tan

Positive Impact: Attention to immigration issues where Chinese-Americans can have a voice in her and her experiences with her family.

Negative impact: Giving Asian men a negative image, and the Chinese culture and experiences sound way too fantastic to believe in.

Lessons I learned: Create a yin to the yang, or at least some visible positive characters to the negative ones, do research, or at least write you know, and have a very cohesive narrative as well as characters that sound different instead of the same.

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

Positive Impact: More attention to Japanese culture and what has happened to them during WWII, as well as a voice of an Asian woman.

Negative Impact: I'm not really sure how the Geisha thing works, but the author did get in trouble for inaccuracy, and I think he made the Geisha a whole lot worse than it should have been. I also find the whole age thing between Sayuri and the Chairman disgusting.

Lessons I learned: Research and have a genuine understanding of psychology and culture before writing from an opposite gender. I do admit that if a book should feature multicultural heroes or heroines, they sound way too stereotypical and American instead of someone from their native countries.

Books by Anne Rice

Positive Impact: For one thing she humanized the vampires and gave voice and emotions to those who are considered outcasts of society.

Negative Impact: For me personally way too long, overly descriptive and verbose, as well as characters from completely identical backgrounds (read one, read all) and shoving her beliefs down my throat.

Lessons I learned: Don't shove your beliefs down someone else's throat. Write relevant things in your stories, and don't depend too much on physical description because it can get boring.

Thanks for reading and listening to my rants about these particular books. "Writing Lessons I learned from the Books I Loved" is coming up, I promise!

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